Optic Network Strikes Chord

LightPointe Communications' free space optics technology provides low cost, high-speed data connectivity for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

As Jazz at Lincoln Center prepared to unveil the new Frederick P. Rose Hall last year, IT Associate Director Fred Murphy turned to LightPointe Communications Inc.s Free Space Optics technology to provide high-speed data connectivity between the new facility and the data center in JALCs administrative office building.

The $128 million Rose Hall, in New York City, houses three distinct venues that each can support numerous daily performance events or conferences. However, there was not enough room in the new facility to accommodate the administrative offices, so JALC maintained its offices and data center in the other building.

While each building has its own Internet connection via a T-1 (1.544M-bps) link with New York Public Librarys data center and hosting facilities, Murphy needed a high-speed LAN solution that could connect the two buildings. The solution had to provide enough bandwidth to enable the 20 users stationed at Rose Hall to access JALCs VOIP (voice over IP) network, Microsoft Corp. Exchange services, file and print services, and access to numerous databases—all of which are hosted in the data center across the street.

JALC (www.jalc.org) investigated several common high-speed interbuilding LAN connectivity solutions, but Murphy said he found LightPointes FlightLite-G offered the best mix of low initial cost, high performance, and ease of deployment and ongoing management.

Installing fiber-optic cabling would have provided enough bandwidth between buildings but required getting permission from the city of New York to put a trench under the street. This would have been too costly and time-consuming, Murphy said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about dark fiber—vast numbers of fiber-optic channels in the ground but as yet unlit by lasers and network protocol encoders.

Otherwise, it would have been prohibitively expensive to install the necessary number of T-1 lines between buildings to provide enough bandwidth to support JALCs applications. Likewise, 802.11-based wireless solutions could not handle the traffic load, and Murphy worried that the wireless technology could not provide the reliability required.

Although microwave-based point-to-point solutions were also a possibility, JALC officials were worried about spectrum-licensing difficulties. More important, JALC officials worried about negative PR and feedback from the neighborhood that might come from microwave technology use.

Although LightPointe offers a less expensive 100M-bps FSO (Free Space Optics) system, Murphy went with the FlightLite-G, which supports up to 1.25G-bps throughput over the 60-meter distance between buildings.

LightPointes was the only FSO solution that JALC investigated, although Canon USA Inc. and fSONA Systems Corp. are among a few other vendors that offer FSO-based solutions.

FSO transmits data using beams of light similarly to the way fiber-optic networking works, but without fibers glass medium. FSO requires a constant line of sight for data connectivity and does not require the use of any licensed spectrum.

Weather conditions with tiny particles, particularly fog or sandstorms, can adversely affect FSO connectivity but are more likely to affect connections over a longer distance than JALCs installation required. LightPointe officials claim snow is not a concern unless there is a whiteout.

Next page: Indoor installation.